Multi-Dowel Kite Posts—Delta

(2-Piece Oak Dowel Spars)

It's an archive of sorts, although there are no dates and times. Kite flying is timeless, don't you agree?

I trust there is plenty in here to educate, inform, and often entertain!

These short flight reports once appeared as posts in the site-blog page, although that page is no longer present on this site. Below, the latest posts come first. Just scroll down and stop at any heading that appeals :-)

Multi-Dowel Delta Kite

Oversized Delta's Overhead Antics

According to an online source, the breeze was light to gentle at the coast, not far from our suburb.

Further inland, at the reserve where I was preparing to fly, the conditions were very gusty. The temperature was pleasant enough (being in the mid-twenties Celsius) and thermic activity was everywhere. I laid the giant Multi-Dowel Delta down and unfurled it on the dry weeds and grass. A small drogue was still attached, from some previous flying. That would come in handy in the active air up there!

The MBK Multi-Dowel Delta kite in flight.MBK Multi-Dowel Delta

With gusts coming through quite frequently, the delta was up in no time. It proved to be rough up there, with the big kite alternately straining upwards in fast air then flopping down in sudden lulls or even descending air. At one point, the kite rose almost overhead and started to wander toward the power lines next to the road, so I quickly walked toward the middle of the reserve to stay out of trouble.

A short time later, while still overhead, the big blue floppy monster tried to turn itself inside out in a patch of turbulence! The kite even seemed to go inverted for a moment. Descending and twisting tightly, the kite managed to catch up the drogue line on the flying line. Great. So then the drogue flew from the flying line for the remainder of the flight—contributing nothing at all to the kite's stability of course! However, the delta behaved itself reasonably well after that. After all, I had rigged the kite with a little more billow than the minimum, which tends to make it more stable.

This kite is usually flown on 200-pound Dacron but the 100-pound line proved perfectly adequate today. This was the case even in gusts which pushed the kite close to its limits. Per unit area, sleds pull more than the average but deltas somewhat less than the average, for most kite types. Also, on a big floppy delta, the effective sail area shrinks considerably when the sail is under strain. Handy! It could be considered an automatic tension-limiting feature.

With 60 meters (200 feet) of line out, the kite ended up flying through big changes in direction and height. The air was thermic alright! The trailing edge would flutter loudly when the wind gusted up. For a few seconds, the Multi-Dowel delta descended nearly all the way to the grass in sinking air, before climbing back up.

Finally, with school pickup time approaching, the kite was brought down. Hung-up drogue and all, it all came back to where I stood. Every time the tension dropped, I took in another meter or two of line. Thus the kite remained downwind and never threatened to overfly.

It wasn't a bad flight, despite some "hairy" moments!

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Big Rustling Delta Goes Overhead

This week has seen something of a catch up after the first couple of very wet weeks foiled more frequent flying down here in Adelaide. Today, the weather station was reporting gusts to about 20 kph. This is a bit fresh for the 4.8 m (16 feet) span Multi-Dowel Delta, but these days I just tie on a drogue to settle this kite down. Plus it's rigged with somewhat more billow in the sail, which makes for more stable flight. In smoother and lighter winds I usually spread the leading edges further apart to flatten out the sail.

Anyway, as expected due to trees upwind, the big bendy kite spent plenty of time stalling and flying sideways while low. It finally came close to the middle of the field as I let more of the 100-pound Dacron line out. At this point, it was fairly straightforward to give the line a tug when the nose was pointing directly up, accelerating the huge delta skyward.

Once over 100 feet, the kite flew fairly smoothly. It rustled loudly whenever the gust strength climbed past 15 kph or so. It was interesting watching the fast ripples in the plastic, moving from front to back. Occasionally, a lull would allow the kite to lurch sideways as it lost air pressure, but the drogue soon had it back on an even keel again. So to speak, since it is it actually a keelless design!

While explaining to a friend how the drogue also helps to prevent overflying, the mischievous kite must have heard me. Immediately, it started moving up, up, up—until almost vertically overhead on over 60 meters (200 feet) of line! Oh well, the drogue helps a bit, being fairly small.

Big Delta Climbs Out—Only Just

Looking out the window at home, it seemed like the breeze was gusting into the mid-twenties (kph). A spur-of-the-moment decision saw us down at a large school oval with the huge Multi-Dowel Delta kite—about 4.8 m (16 ft.) from tip to tip. Actually, we had it rigged for higher winds today, which reduces the wing span a little.

Giving Aren (8) the camera, I soon had the big kite wallowing around close to the ground. With every little puff of extra air, I let out line so the kite moved out across the grass. Eventually, on 30 meters (100 feet) of line the kite was allowed to sit back and rather slowly climb out to full height. There wasn't really as much breeze as expected! So the leading-edge spars could have been spread out further for a tighter sail. But never mind. Once up, the kite was holding height easily.

Next, more line was let out—to 60 meters (200 feet) now. Again, the huge blue delta took its time regaining height and line angle. But it was flying smoothly up there, well clear of the rough air from houses and trees upwind.

Finally, having just a few more minutes available before being due back home, we climbed the kite up on 90 meters (300 feet) of line. Nice! I took some video at this point, since Aren was able to hang on. Despite the size, this kite never pulls more than a few kilos.

Meanwhile, the wind meter had been whirring away on its little tripod. It showed a 5 kph average with a max gust to 10.6 kph. That's fairly light, although the delta had probably felt the occasional gust in the mid to high teens, high up.

It might have been a short outing, but it was good seeing the large light-wind delta doing its thing at almost 300 feet above the grass.

Big Delta Flexes its Wings

That sounds a little poetic, but some of the flexing was due to awkward landings while I was attempting to take video! A couple of times, the breeze near the grass became so light that the big Multi-Dowel Delta floundered and pointed in various directions. It's a bit hard to let out line suddenly when you have it wrapped around your foot.

Anyway, a couple of longer flights were achieved when just over 30 meters (100 feet) of line was let out. The large blue kite soared around just below the smoothest air up higher. So the videos caught some erratic flying as the very light breeze swirled, ebbed, and flowed across the reserve.

The huge blue delta glided around, sat up on its tail to climb in the gusts, and swung back into wind after heading off downwind. There were large excursions off to the left and right, before the kite smoothly headed up toward the apex again. These are the things that light-wind deltas do.

The late afternoon sun lit up the sail as it moved across the cloudless pale-blue sky. But I had to hurry; 8-year-old Aren was finishing soccer practice at school and would not cope well if I was too late.

Big Delta Glides Near Glassy Ocean

Yesterday afternoon would normally have been the AKFA Kite Fly for September. However, most flyers didn't turn up since winds were predicted to be very light, later in the afternoon. Unfortunately for the two of us who did turn up, the ocean became like glass fairly early on. Just the occasional patch of perhaps 3 kph air was disturbing the water's surface!

A light-wind eagle kite had been up, briefly, just before I arrived. Soon, I had the giant Multi-Dowel Delta laid out on the grass.

While finishing the rig and doing a few minor repairs, I had a short chat with a young guy from Afghanistan. They fly big fighter kites over there—several times the size of the more well-known Indian patang. This guy was telling me about the enormous heights at which Afghan fighters are flown, on thousands of feet of line. Civil aviation is a little less regulated over there!

With the big delta rigged on its light-wind setting, I then proceeded to try and get it far enough above the dunes to catch a whiff of the sea "breeze."

For a few seconds at a time, the ponderous blue bird did hang in the air, before slowly succumbing to gravity. Again and again I tried, brushing up some rusty line-handling skills by flying and gliding the kite back to my hand each time. This was apart from a couple of awkward wingtip landings that fortunately didn't do any damage.

So, that was that!

Talk About Light and Variable

The weather station was indicating an average of 1 kph gusting to 6 kph just south of here, and not much more in the city to the north. So, it's a day for the real light-wind performers.

I had the Dowel Rokkaku, Dowel Delta, and Multi-Dowel Delta in the car. First up was the rok, which floated around on the merest whiff of breeze, while I took a few short movies. The air was all over the place, but mostly there seemed to be an easterly flow over the park. This was despite the clouds traveling in the opposite direction, only a few thousand feet above.

After this I let out some line and played around with the light-weight rok on about 30 meters (100 feet). There was barely enough air to stay up!

Next up was the big delta. At about 5 meters (16 feet) across from tip to tip, that's big in my books.

Knowing that it was going to be hard to stay airborne, I lashed the spreader on with the leading edge spars as far apart as possible. After a few unsuccessful launch attempts, I sensibly moved right to the middle of the park.

Out in the middle, the airflow was slightly stronger and much more consistent. Up went the big floppy delta, for several flights of a few minutes each. A little fluttering of the trailing-edge plastic was picked up by the camera's microphone as gentle gusts came through.

Oh, did I mention the breeze was now a westerly?! Still, it was very light and it was a matter of working the line a bit from time to time, to contact slightly faster air. By this time, about 60 meters (200 feet) of line was out. Although this kite is often flown on 200-pound Dacron, the 100-pound stuff was a better choice today. Perhaps it added a few seconds to most of the flights!

Delta Flying and Sky Diving

Up at the beach near Fort Glanville, winds over the sand seemed very light, from the northwest. Expecting a little more higher up, I rigged the big Multi-Dowel Delta kite on its innermost spreader notches.

For a while it was fun to float the kite way out downwind, just skirting the tops of some low sand dunes, before holding the line and urging the dowel-and-plastic craft upward. Efforts to keep the kite in the air just resulted in shorter and shorter line lengths as it wallowed about at fairly low line angles. A couple of relaunches were required.

The very smooth breeze was deceptive, being a little stronger than I had estimated. The wind meter recorded around a 5.5 kph average gusting to 8.5 kph, soon after we started flying. Later, the breeze dropped off somewhat, but not before the huge delta had briefly struggled up to around 200 feet above the sand. Retying the spreader to tighten the sail a bit did help.

A small light aircraft buzzed overhead. Initially difficult to spot since it had climbed so high, the plane had become a mere dot in the blue expanse above. I explained to Aren (my 8-year-old) that the plane was "climbing its guts out." It was straining nose high and with very modest forward speed. Quite a few minutes later, the reason became clear...

All of a sudden we became aware of three brightly colored sport parachutes descending toward our general area on the beach. The delta was left parked, or rather flopped, over a mound of dry seaweed as we watched the skydivers land—one by one—about 200 meters further down the beach. Very cool!

Regarding the kite, it was not the most relaxed flying ever. But it was definitely better than nothing!

Delta Night Flight With Scouts

This time it was the Taperoo Sea Scouts, up near Port Adelaide. Rather than a kite-making workshop, I had been invited to do a presentation explaining how kites fly. As well, a few large Multi-Dowel kites would be used for further illustration.

The Tiny Tots Diamond and 1-Skewer Delta were a handy size to pick up and point out all the components of these two popular kite types. Next came a quick explanation of the forces acting on any kite. A few principles of stability were also presented.

It was a bit of a challenge trying to get some of these concepts across to such a young audience—Scout Cubs and the even smaller Joeys. But they were reasonably quiet, which was a very good sign!

After seeing the huge Multi-Dowel Sled and Delta laid out on the floor, it was decided to venture outside to a grassy corner-block to fly.

The huge delta was rigged under lamp light plus the flashlight (torch) function of a helpful parent's cell phone (mobile). The spreader's outer notches were used, for maximum light-wind performance.

"WOW! It's so HUGE" ... "It looks like a hang glider" ... were just a couple of comments heard from the kids as I threaded my way between some trees and over bushes to get back to the open area.

A few tow ups were initially unsuccessful in the almost calm conditions down low. But then, with a little extra persistence, the kite just managed to contact the several kph of wind speed it needed.

So there it was, hovering silently beside the silvery crescent moon which was veiled in thin cloud cover. The kite was at about 70 degrees of line angle, with just over 30 meters (100 feet) let out. Most of the line was invisible while the kite itself was just a ghostly scalloped triangle in the blackness above. A couple of Joeys were able to hold the line for a few moments each since the strain was probably less than two kilograms at maximum line-angle.

It was a good experience all round—and they thanked me with a loud Sea Scouts "B-R-A-V-O BRAVO!"

Multi-Dowel Delta Soars Again

The outing started off as a second attempt at KAP from the western edge of the Happy Valley Reservoir. However, the breeze lightened off, and the big Multi-Dowel Barn Door was having trouble staying aloft.

So, it was out with the light-wind backup kite—the Multi-Dowel Delta. Due to unfamiliarity with the location, it still took a bit of effort to get the delta away. With the breeze from west-southwest a few rather tall trees were in the way, messing with the air over quite a large area. A number of onlookers were probably somewhat entertained by the huge kite's low-flying antics. Altitude, not entertainment, was the real aim though.

Finally, the kite was moving around sedately on 75 meters (250 feet) of line, well above the ground turbulence. The wind was still gusty, causing the sail to ripple and make some noise from time to time. Perhaps a small amount of thermal lift was about but it was fairly subdued due to the late time of day. There was no overflying past vertical this time, which was a relief since if anything went wrong, there were obstacles everywhere quite close to where I was holding the line.

So far so good, so out went some more line. With the huge dark-blue delta on 90 meters (300 feet), the kite was nudging close to the legal limit. A small bird zipped in, did a quick orbit to check out the kite, then flitted away again. Despite the size of the delta, the line tension was only a kilogram or two most of the time. Perhaps this kite pulls around four kilos in 20 kph gusts, but to date I have not put the spring scales on, to check more accurately.

Just as I was thinking of relaxing a bit and letting the kite do its thing for another 15 minutes or so, I noticed something ... the point where the two halves of the starboard leading edge spar join up seemed to be jutting out a little. Worried that a dowel had become less than fully inserted, I quickly brought the kite down. Down around 50 feet or so it was clear that the leading edge spar was exactly where it was supposed to be. Perhaps the join needs to be beefed up a little.

It was quite an enjoyable flight today, while it lasted!

Huge Delta Kite Attracts White Corellas

Earlier in the day, the weather sites seemed to be indicating big barn-door weather. But toward late evening the breeze seemed to be much lighter. So why not take a chance and go out with the giant 4.8 m (16 ft.) delta once again.

Before going out I had filed a couple of new slots near the ends of the spreader, a little inboard of the original slots. This was to increase the billow of the sail somewhat, in an attempt to make the kite a little more stable. Soon after getting the big Multi-Dowel Delta up, it was clear that the kite was indeed better behaved than before. Any short burst of extra wind speed just made the kite sit back and accelerate straight up—nice! It felt like the breeze might have been gusting to around 15 kph at least up there.

For quite a few minutes I just let the kite drift around on 60 meters (200 feet) of line. A small flock of noisy white corellas took an interest in the strange rippling blue bird and flew past several times. The one still photo with the white birds was not in focus unfortunately, but some of the video footage featured both the birds and an increasingly luminous moon as the sun drew near to the horizon.

One other small change had also been made, to the kite's bridle. This was to allow more forward adjustment of the towing point, which came in handy today since some of the gusts were stronger than on the original test flight. What was the measured wind speed? Ummm ... I discovered the meter wasn't turned on, as I went to pack up!

Night Flight With Cycling Lights

At the shops, earlier in the day, I had noticed some pairs of LED lights for cyclists at $2 per pair. They seemed to be in red and green. Aha, I thought, they belong on the wingtips of my Multi-Dowel Delta!

The weather decided to co-operate, serving up a very smooth and fairly light breeze after sundown. My son and I went out after tea and we carried everything required to a well-lit spot under a park lamp post. Soon, the 4.8 m (16 ft.) dark-blue delta was rigged, complete with tip lights.

Despite tying the spreader in its low-wind configuration with minimal sail billow, the kite was reluctant to climb, lazily hanging in the air at a low line angle.

At least the shadowy delta, almost invisible against the night sky, stayed stable and airborne while I steadily let more line out. This was done while walking upwind so the kite remained roughly over the same spot of grassy ground. Soon, slightly faster air was contacted and the kite willingly headed much higher. The blinking red and white lights were clearly visible. Ooops! Yes, white for the front end of a bike at night, of course.

Having reached a good spot to fly from, I let more line off the reel until the 90 meter (300 feet) mark came off. My young boy helped out by shining a key-ring light onto the Dacron as it slid past my hand. As this was happening, the Multi-Dowel Delta kite silently slipped away downwind, still stable and nose high.

With the reel halted, tension came back on the line and the kite immediately began a slow smooth ascent, accompanied by a distinct fluttering sound from the loose plastic along the trailing edges. Very soon, it was hovering at around a 60 or 65 degree line angle. I let 8-year-old Aren take the line for half a minute. As we discovered a few minutes later with the spring scales, the huge delta was only pulling between 1 and 2 kilograms in the 12 kph or so breeze aloft.

Seeing the kite parked up there, barely moving in the cool smooth air, it was hard to comply with my boy's wishes to return home for dessert! But we couldn't be out too late, so soon the kite was on its way down. Aren manned (!) the reel, while I slowly pulled line onto the grass.

Eventually, the kite swooped low in the almost dead calm near the ground. A bit of line had to be let out as the nose swung around in a complete 360 turn before a tip contacted the earth and turned its little light off!

It was a memorable flight, on a starry and moon-lit night.

Near Miss With Helicopter

Well, it could have been. Having found the perfect spot to capture the very photogenic Flinders University building complex, I had just laid out the line and taken a few panoramic shots. I was about to attach the KAP rig, and what do you know ... WOKKA WOKKA WOKKA ... a pesky heli descends right through my airspace and proceeds to land on a rooftop helipad overlooking the field. Ah, so that's where the Flinders Medical Center chopper lands. Another 15 minutes and the Multi-Dowel Barn Door would have strung a 200-pound line within meters of the flight path.

Seriously, it was me who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I wasted no time in packing up and leaving. There might not in fact be any "right time" at that location. Pity—everything seemed perfect for the KAP shoot up until then.

So, I ended up changing locations and pulling out the new Multi-Dowel Delta kite instead. After a few false starts in very light and variable air, the huge blue delta finally climbed out and flew around nicely on about 60 meters (200 feet) of line while I took some photos and video. It had good steep flying angles as you would expect of a decent delta.

There were hints of instability and a lean to the right in some stronger gusts but a little more billow in the sail might help there. Just before leaving, I let the line out to 75 meters (250 feet). It was a good flight overall, although this is a definite light-winds-only design. It sure looks great in flight!

On packing the kite up, it seemed that the upper and lower lengths of the vertical spar had become disconnected in flight! Somehow, the kite had managed to keep flying with no obvious signals that anything was wrong. Still, I have thought of a neat way to temporarily secure the join before each flight.

Multi-Dowel Delta Kite Test

This will be brief, just like the flights with the new Multi-Dowel Delta kite today! This kite should gain height in very light wind. Even if it's just a couple of ants passing wind in the grass below.

After turning up at the Wilfred Taylor Reserve, it looked like a photograph. That is, there was no movement. Not a leaf was stirring, at first sight. But then one or two tantalizing puffs came through, so that was enough to get me out of the car and rigging the giant delta.

What followed was a lot of standing around, dropping feather-light objects and watching them land near my feet. Annoying. 

Eventually, I observed the big lightly-built delta during a couple of 5-second tow ups and glides in near calmness. The kite is decidedly tail heavy, which is deliberate. It might also be just a little too lightly built, like the original Dowel Delta. Longer flights will be necessary to really evaluate that.

This kite (very conveniently) will sit on the rear tips of its spars like a tripod! I imagine this will only work in very light wind—like today, where the wind meter registered just a 0.7 kph average with a gust to 7.2 kph.


The story or stories above document actual flying experiences. My write-ups are definitely "warts and all" since things don't always go totally as planned. However, half the fun of kiting is anticipating the perfect flight. When it happens, it's magic!


As mentioned earlier, there's more kite-making info here than you can poke a stick at :-)

Want to know the most convenient way of using it all?

The Big MBK E-book Bundle is a collection of downloads—printable PDF files which provide step-by-step instructions for many kites large and small.

Every kite in every MBK series.